The Paradise Theatre - Philanthropic Visionary or Dance Hall King?


There was a neighbourhood meeting at the Gladstone library on July 15, 2014.  The date is important because the Paradise Theatre, built in 1937, has been dark for to long.  It seems that the proposed mixed use of the soon-to-be slightly expanded building will involve things like film festivals, corporate events, product launches, comedy nights and anything else that makes sense in that simple large space.  The investment is reportedly around 4 million dollars, which could bring the old Paradise Theatre back to life and with an improved facade that includes a new marquee.  So much better than the darkened entrance we've been walking by for years.

The meeting was called by the Councillor of Ward 18 in order "to protect the residents" from any offshoot annoyances from this proposed project.  It's interesting that the Councillor of Ward 18 feels that this project needs her voice and the voice of the neighbourhood when the newly installed Tim Horton's at the corner of Bloor and Gladstone seems to run a 24 hour affair with incoming drug dealers, late night prostitution, a small gang war on one night and all of this served with your double-double.  It seems that "protection" for residents at this meeting is mis-placed.  Again, the Councillor of Ward 18 called this meeting.  About 30 residents attended the meeting.

There were a few people who spoke at the beginning of the meeting including the Councillor of Ward 18 and the new Paradise Theatre owner Mr. Moray Tawse.  Mr. Tawse comes from a strong financial background being the vice-president and co-founder of First National Financial, the country’s largest non-bank mortgage lender, but Mr. Tawse also has a passion for wine, so much so that he bought land in Niagara that went on to capture back to back Winery of the Year awards in Canada.  His organic and biodynamic approach to the vineyard has been instrumental in achieving his wine complexities.  Wait, he's organic?  That fits this neighbourhood and probably speaks to a lot of Ward 18 residents.  So, we have a man who has brains, money, thinks organic and now owns the Paradise Theatre.

Mr. Tawse spoke at length with a candid, brutal honesty that was refreshing but firm, afterall, this meeting was apparently an excercise for all of us, including himself because this meeting was to share his excitement with the neighbourhood, and do it personally.  Except for some smaller issues, Mr. Tawse is free to transform the building and run a business just like anyone else.  Public opinion in the room was just as firm as the opinions of Mr. Tawse yet there seemed to be a sense of "to good to be true" running through the crowd that a few people needed to try and poke some holes in the project in a democratic showing of the hands.

One of the questions had a truly valid point to it and it was this, " What if live bands start playing and it turns into a dance/rave hall?", it could happen and has happened in other neighbourhoods but here's the rub, Mr. Moray Tawes just isn't that guy.  Look him up on Google and you'll find page after page after page of respected accolades from third parties.  Why would a guy, who owns a winery that appeals to a demographic that is a million miles away from "dance hall kids" be interested in tarnishing his reputation with bad press about a sleazy, poorly run business?  It doesn't make sense, but, what does make sense is buying a building in a HOT neighbourhood and branding it with your winery business.  That makes sense.

Imagine elegant wine related events at The Paradise Theatre serving Tawes Wines exclusively, and they're really good wines.  So maybe the dream of a truly local venue that caters to all and includes the neighbourhood is almost coming to fruition.  It's a good thing for Bloor Street in Ward 18, it's a good thing to attract NEW people to the area that come for something we condone as a neighbourhood.  Sure, Mr. Moray Tawes will make a little money annually, maybe even create a significant positive impact for his wine business but he'll employ a few local people and he'll put a little pazazz back into that dark section of Bloor Street.  Paradise Theatre Visionary - WIN!  Tim Horton's 24 Hour Carnival of Noise - FAIL!

This beautiful and interesting video was presented at the meeting.  People were asked to ignore some small elements that were things like homes seemingly in the Green P lot ... but it is a candid presentation on parts of the 'hood.

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